Usually on Mondays, I share a photo of mine that I hope gives you a little bit of a break from the least-favourite day of the week: something beautiful, remarkable, funny. But today is a special day, so instead of an escape, I hope this provides you with encouragement and wisdom—a reminder of a man who lived, who was brave and courageous, who sought to bring people together instead of dividing them, instead of creating suspicion.
Also, I’m willing to bet these are the best and most honest speeches you’ll hear all week.
From “A Knock At Midnight“—you really ought to just click over and read the whole thing, as it is a superb sermon:
Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him”?
Luke 11:5-6, RSV
Although this parable is concerned with the power of persistent prayer, it may also serve as a basis for our thought concerning many contemporary problems and the role of the church in grappling with them. It is midnight in the parable; it is also midnight in our world, and the darkness is so deep that we can hardly see which way to turn.
…When confronted by midnight in the social order we have in the past turned to science for help. And little wonder! On so many occasions science has saved us. …But alas! science cannot now rescue us, for even the scientist is lost in the terrible midnight of our age. Indeed, science gave us the very instruments that threaten to bring universal suicide. So modern man faces a dreary and frightening midnight in the social order.
…It is also midnight within the moral order. At midnight colours lose their distinctiveness and become a sullen shade of grey. Moral principles have lost their distinctiveness. For modern man, absolute right and wrong are a matter of what the majority is doing. Right and wrong are relative to likes and dislikes and the customs of a particular community. We have unconsciously applied Einstein’s theory of relativity, which properly described the physical universe, to the moral and ethical realm.
…The traveller asks for three loaves of bread. He wants the bread of faith. In a generation of so many colossal disappointments, men have lost faith in God, faith in man, and faith in the future. Many feel as did William Wilberforce, who in 1801 said, “I dare not marry—the future is so unsettled,” or as did William Pitt, who in 1806 said, “There is scarcely anything round us but ruin and despair.” In the midst of staggering disillusionment, many cry for the bread of faith.
There is also a deep longing for the bread of hope. In the early years of this century many people did not hunger for this bread. The days of the first telephones, automobiles, and aeroplanes gave them a radiant optimism. They worshipped at the shrine of inevitable progress. They believed that every new scientific achievement lifted man to higher levels of perfection. But then a series of tragic developments, revealing the selfishness and corruption of man, illustrated with frightening clarity the truth of Lord Acton’s dictum, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This awful discovery led to one of the most colossal breakdowns of optimism in history. For so many people, young and old, the light of hope went out, and they roamed wearily in the dark chambers of pessimism. Many concluded that life has no meaning. Some agreed with the philosopher Schopenhauer that life is an endless pain with a painful end, and that life is a tragicomedy played over and over again with only slight changes in costume and scenery. Others cried out with Shakespeare’s Macbeth that life
is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
But even in the inevitable moments when all seems hopeless, men know that without hope they cannot really live, and in agonizing desperation they cry for the bread of hope.
…Midnight is a confusing hour when it is difficult to be faithful. The most inspiring word that the church must speak is that no midnight long remains. The weary traveller by midnight who asks for bread is really seeking the dawn. Our eternal message of hope is that dawn will come. Our slave foreparents realized this. They were never unmindful of the fact of midnight, for always there was the rawhide whip of the overseer and the auction block where families were torn asunder to remind them of its reality. When they thought of the agonizing darkness of midnight, they sang:
Oh, nobody knows de trouble I’ve seen,
Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down,
Oh, yes, Lord,
Sometimes I’m almost to de groun’,
Oh, yes, Lord,
Oh, nobody knows de trouble I’ve seen,
Encompassed by a staggering midnight but believing that morning would come, they sang:
I’m so glad trouble don’t last alway.
O my Lord, O my Lord, what shall I do?
Their positive belief in the dawn was the growing edge of hope that kept the slaves faithful amid the most barren and tragic circumstances.
Faith in the dawn arises from the faith that God is good and just. When one believes this, he knows that the contradictions of life are neither final nor ultimate. He can walk through the dark night with the radiant conviction that all things work together for good for those that love God. Even the most starless midnight may herald the dawn of some great fulfillment.
…The dawn will come. Disappointment, sorrow, and despair are born at midnight, but morning follows. “Weeping may endure for a night,” says the Psalmist, “but joy cometh in the morning.” This faith adjourns the assemblies of hopelessness and brings new light into the dark chambers of pessimism.
These words, I think, are still meant for all of us hearing and reading them. Can the man get an ‘Amen’?